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Working lives

The geotechnical consultant Hugo Wood, 26, is a geotechnical consultant with High-Point Rendel. His career has taken him to destinations as far afield as the Lebanon, the Philippines and the Isle of Wight.

Route to job

I completed a BSc (Hons) in engineering at Durham University in 1995. During my summer holidays I had worked with Mott MacDonald, which led to sponsorship for my final two years at college. After graduation I was involved mainly in designing the cofferdam for the Heathrow Express project following the collapse of the NATM tunnels in 1994. In 1997 I completed an MSc in engineering geology at Imperial College and started work with Golder Associates on a range of projects, including site formation design for an MTR station in Hong Kong and the design of a landfill site in the Lebanon. I moved to High-Point Rendel last year.

Expectations

When I graduated I hoped to be able to work on a range of challenging projects, for which I would be able to develop innovative and cost effective solutions. During my previous employment I gained experience in a wide range of geotechnical and civil engineering projects, and on joining High- Point Rendel my aim was to continue to develop my expertise. This included helping to develop the underground engineering capability of the company and my own project management skills, and progressing towards becoming chartered.

The reality

I have been involved in a number of interesting projects since joining High-Point Rendel, for the geotechnics skill group and other departments. This has included designing stabilisation measures for a road passing above 70m high chalk cliffs on the Isle of Wight, which comprises an anchored, bored pile retaining structure. I also worked on the preliminary design of a reclamation embankment across Manila Bay for a 7km long tolled expressway, and proposals for the excavation of pulverised fuel ash from disposal lagoons. Being a finalist in this year's 30th Cooling Prize, a British Geotechnical Society competition, allowed me to present some aspects of my work to a BGS meeting.

Advice

An MSc is a vital step for a career in geotechnics, although it may only teach you how much of the subject that you don't actually know. Try to gain experience of all aspects of engineering, technical and managerial, both office and site based, to develop an overall appreciation of the subject, and don't be afraid to take up any challenge - you cannot fail to learn from it.

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